Our History

Originally established in 1960 as Baton Rouge Speech and Hearing Foundation, Emerge’s enduring commitment to evolve our services and meet the needs of families continues today. 

The Emerge Center’s history has its roots as Baton Rouge Speech and Hearing Foundation (BRSHF).  Founded by the Junior League and the Quota Club in 1960, BRSHF provided support to adults and children with communication challenges, primarily in the areas of speech therapy and audiology. The organization offered a range of services to the community and continued to expand programs every few years. 

In the early 1980s, BRSHF added a new program for children with autism and other social delays which provided intense intervention in a preschool group setting. This was the first therapeutic program for children with autism of its kind in the region.

In the early 2000s, BRSHF began providing Applied Behavior Analysis therapy, and conceived its programs for children with autism through a partnership with LSU’s Department of Psychology.

BRSHF soon began earning a national reputation as a top-tier early intervention therapy provider, serving as a beacon of hope for families across the region.

While demand for our services grew, we were still operating out of a 9,000 square-foot building with limited capacity for expansion. So, in 2011, we took a bold step and launched a capital campaign to build a new home. The Baton Rouge community answered the call, helping us construct a state-of-the-art 26,000 square-foot home base.

Our reach had grown to encompass far more than just the Baton Rouge region, and our services could no longer be simply summarized by “speech and hearing.” The term “foundation” no longer communicated our status as a multi-disciplinary center that provided quality services.

Rebranded as The Emerge Center, our new facility opened in 2014.  In our expanded space, we were able to fully build out a comprehensive and collaborative interdisciplinary care model in which our therapists coordinate treatment across services and in partnership with parents.

Driven by our innovative spirit and dedication to meeting the needs of our community, we launched The Emerge School in 2018.  Formed to serve elementary-aged children, the School extends our continuum of care and allows children with autism to prosper in an environment tailored to their needs.  

Not only is the School the first public charter school in Louisiana designed for children with autism, it represents a transformational milestone in our decades-long history.

With the support of generous community members, construction of a building for the School is scheduled to be completed on Emerge’s campus in 2020.

Through our core therapy services, educational opportunities for children with autism and a dedication to access for all in need, we are poised to continue impacting the lives of children and families for generations to come.   

Board of Directors

Officers

Melissa Gregg Blake, Chair
Mike DePaul, Vice Chair
Janna Oetting, Ph.D., Secretary
Stephen Cangelosi, Treasurer
Robert Pettit, Immediate Past Chair

Directors

Paula Bradley
Marvin Borgmeyer
Vicki Crochet
Madison DeWitt
Zelma Frederick
Terrence Ginn
Beverly Haydel
Dr. Charlotte Hollman
Dr. Catherine Katzenmeyer
Sunny McDaniel
J.P. Perrault, Chair, The Emerge School for Autism
Paul Saltaformaggio
Valerie Schexnayder, Chair, The Emerge Foundation
Audrey Wascome
Sylvia Winder
Amy Woodard

Ex-Officio

Deanna Whittle, CEO, The Emerge Center

Linda Brown, Principal, The Emerge School for Autism

Shelton Jones, Executive Director, The Emerge Foundation

Dr. Natalee Menge, Executive Director of Clinic Operations, The Emerge Center